July 24, 2015 – Amarillo, TX to Albuquerque, NM. A Horrible Misadventure

Let’s face it, riding a motorcycle is not the safest thing in the world.  If you want safety, buy a Volvo and drive it as little as possible.  For the rest of us, we know that sooner or later, a motorcycle accident can happen and it happened to me. July 14, 2015 was a day that started out well enough, but halfway through, I got into an accident that nearly wrecked the bike, left me road rashed and battered.  More on that incident later…

It Started Off as a Good Day

It started out as a perfect Texas summer day: bright skies, not too much wind and low humidity.  I slept soundly the night before after a great steak dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch.  I stayed overnight at their motel, so it was a short walk back to the restaurant for a very satisfying, Texas sized, breakfast.  It seemed like a good day was ahead, I would put down a lot of miles and enjoy Route 66.

Before getting back on the road, I snapped a few photos of the Big Texan Steak ranch in the morning sun.  Hitherto, I only had night shots of this famous place and I failed to notice the ever so-cliched Cadillac with bull horns affixed to the hood.  Now that’s a great look!

A True Texas Car
A True Texas Car

Arguably second only to the Big Texan Steak Ranch, the Cadillac Ranch is Amarillo’s most famous Route 66 roadside attraction.  Even though I have seen it three times before, I always like going back to see it again.  It is truly never the same place twice, each day the colors and graffiti on the buried cars are renewed by countless tourists armed with spray paint and occasionally, inspired imagination.   I fired up the Harley and headed west out into the desert, home of the Cadillac Ranch.

The Cadillac Ranch

On my way, I stumbled upon a new Route 66 attraction, the Oasis RV Resort, which pays homage to the Cadillac Ranch.  Either I passed by this place on my last Route 66 road trip or it is new business.  Either way, the giant cowboy and the gorgeous vintage Cadillacs mounted on sloped stands caught my eye.  Definitely worth stopping for a few photos.

The giant cowboy was interesting enough, but on closer inspection it turned out to be propaganda for the Second Amendment (the right to bear firearms).  Okay, I have no issue with that, but what I could not figure out is why he is not carrying any firearms?   After all this is Texas, he is a cowboy and he’s an advocate for the Second Amendment.  Poor chap, I felt like he was neutered.

Second Amendment Cowboy, RV Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas
Second Amendment Cowboy, RV Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Once I had my kicks at the Oasis RV Resort, it was time to get back on road and take some photos at the Cadillac Ranch.  It must have rained during the night or the day before, as the field was quite muddy and normally it is bone dry.  I liked the change on the terrain, somehow it added some texture to the photos and I was not inhaling fine dust.  As expected, there were plenty of people lurking around with spray paint adding to the inches thick layers of paint adorning these Cadillacs buried in the desert sand since 1974.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

From Wikipedia: Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, U.S. It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm. It consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line (most notably the birth and death of the defining feature of mid twentieth century Cadillacs: the tailfins) from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Vega, Texas – Last Town Visited with an Intact Motorcycle

The next Route 66 town west of Amarillo is Vega, TX.  There’s not much to see or do there, but it still has one or two businesses trying to capture motorists with some roadside kitsch.  I made a brief video and took a few shots and then it was off to the Midpoint Café in Adrian, TX.

Roadside Kitsch, Texas Style
Roadside Kitsch, Texas Style

Midpoint Café in Adrian, TX

The Midpoint Café derives its name from being the midway point between Chicago and Los Angeles along Route 66. the Café’s slogan is “when you’re here, you’re halfway there”.

Route 66 Midpoint, Adrian, Texas
Route 66 Midpoint, Adrian, Texas

It was built in 1928, expanded in 1947 and during Route 66’s golden years it was open 24 hours a day.  It is the oldest continuously operating Route 66 cafe between Amarillo, TX and Tucumcari, NM.

Adrian was bypassed by I-40 in 1969 and the Midpoint experienced a sharp decline in business.  By the late 20th century, the town’s population dwindled to 220 people and in 2008, only 149 people were left.  Things looked bleak.  In 1990, Fran Houser purchased the business, naming it the Adrian Café.  Her original plan was to establish an antique shop at the site.

Since then, the Midpoint Café has experienced a renaissance thanks to worldwide tourism on Route 66 and its rebranding.  From wikipedia:

Efforts to put “Historic Route 66” back on the map date to 1987, with Angel Delgadillo’s Arizona Historic Route 66 Association obtaining historic signage on Arizona State Route 66. Other US Route 66 states soon followed, using the “Route 66” brand to attract visitors from as far afield as Europe and Australia.

The Midpoint Café’s current name and identity were adopted in 1995 on the advice of travel author and US Route 66 Association founder Tom Snyder.

    “The president and founder of the U.S. Route 66 Association called me one day. He said, ‘Kid, you better do something because you are at the midway point of Route 66. You need to change that name.’” — Fran Houser, former owner of the Adrian Café

The shop began selling antiques on consignment by 1997 alongside its “nostalgia food” menu of breakfasts, hamburgers and the home-made desserts which it calls “Ugly Crust Pies”.

This strategy has worked and today, the Midpoint is a very busy place.  In fact, it was so busy, that there was only one parking spot when I arrived.  Inside this vintage themed restaurant, I cooled down from the mid-day’s heat with some ice-cream and iced tea.  Afterwards, I took some photos at the midpoint sign.

Midpoint Cafe, Route 66, Adrian, Texas
Midpoint Cafe, Route 66, Adrian, Texas

Roadkill, Texas Style

Next, I was in for a real Texan surprise: a rattlesnake that was run over by a pickup truck. Somehow the snake was still moving, but without a head. Seems the autonomic nervous system was still working.

Rattlesnake Roadkill
Rattlesnake Roadkill

Before heading back on the road, I made a brief stop at an old Phillips 66 gas station currently undergoing renovations.  It looks like there is still quite a bit of work to be done before it becomes a new Route 66 roadside attraction.

Phillips 66 Gas Station, Adrian, Texas
Phillips 66 Gas Station, Adrian, Texas
Phillips 66 Gas Station, Adrian, Texas
Phillips 66 Gas Station, Adrian, Texas

I was excited about seeing New Mexico again and spending some time in Tucumcari as well as Santa Rosa.   However, the day ahead was not what I expected, and both the Harley and I nearly met our demise.

The Monsoon Came and Then the Harley Went Down!

Just as I was leaving Adrian, a desert monsoon rolled in.  Within seconds, the rain came down hard and fast, it only a minute to soak the road and my clothes.  I continued riding down Route 66, waiting for the rain to abate or find a safe spot to put on my rain suit, then all of a sudden, about 100 feet ahead, I noticed a metal gate pulled across the road just as it curved to the right.  Instinctively, I pulled in my brakes and then bike skidded on the slippery road, I lost control and I’m going down!   I am thrown off the bike and rolled on the ground a few times, from the corner of my eye I could see the bike flipping over, once, maybe twice.  Everything is happening in slow motion and the adrenalin kicks in.  At some level, I know I’m not seriously injured, but before this whole horrible event is over, my first thought is: can I ride and is the bike still roadworthy?  Being stranded in the middle of a Texas desert is not a pleasant thought.

It all seems so unreal and I am shaken and injured.  When the adrenalin is rushing through your veins, pain is numbed and you do not know how hurt you really are.  I get up and start to walk, I flex my hands and thank God there are no broken bones.  However, I got a case of road rash and blood is flowing out of both forearms, right hand and left knee.  The Harley came to rest on the road’s shoulder and it sloped into a small ditch.  Next step is to check out the bike, I could see some debris on the road, but it’s plastic, no major parts came off.  Good, maybe it will still run, but first I have to get it out of the ditch.

Norwegian Samaritans To The Rescue

I struggled to upright the 850 lb bike to no avail, the slope in the ditch made it really difficult and I am injured.  A minute or so later, some good Samaritans come to my rescue.  They are a Norwegian couple touring Route 66.  No doubt, they had not planned on helping out a stranded and injured biker, but what the hell, it will make a great story for them.  They made sure I was okay, gave me some water and a towel to wipe off the blood.

The husband helped me get the Harley out of the ditch and back on the road.  I pulled in the clutch to start the engine and it runs, but there is a problem:  the roll bars were bent in and I could no longer use the heel and toe shifter to change gears.  The left side roll bar would have to come forward about two inches.   Eventually, the Norwegian and I used our combined strength and we bent back the bar just enough to clear the shifter.

I tried to call my insurance company, my girlfriend, Melissa and my buddy Michael in Phoenix.  However, I could not get good reception and was unable to make any calls.  One way or another, I would have to travel to the next town to use my mobile phone.

Bruised and Damaged,  Harley and Rider Carry On

The Harley still runs, but it is quite damaged and is most likely a write off.  The question is whether I can still ride it since the bulk of the damage is to plastic components.  The engine, frame, tires, lights and brakes are fine.  The handlebar has a slight bend and the windshield is cracked.  I tested all the controls and they work.  Time to give it a test ride, I get back on and go a half mile up and down the road, it seems roadworthy.

The real test is whether it would handle highway speeds.  So, the Norwegians suggest they follow me for a few miles on I-40 and if there is any trouble, they offered to help.  However, if everything is fine, I would give them the thumbs up and we part ways.  After 10 minutes of highway riding, I was confident things were good and I gave the thumbs up signal.

Calling Out In a Ghost Town

I would have to make a stop further west to see if I could get cell phone reception and also document the damage to the bike.  Ironically, the next exit on I-40 is Glenrio, NM a ghost town right on the Texas border.  There was no reliable reception in Glenrio, just abandoned buildings.  Oh well, may as well take a few photos and a video to document the accident.

After departing Glenrio, I knew there was nothing but desert ahead until Tucumcari, NM, around 44 miles due west.  Once in Tucumcari, I would make my phone calls and look for some bandages and duct tape.  I stopped at a little Mexican restaurant, and ordered iced tea and a sandwich.  I called Melissa, told her about the accident and understandably, she was very upset and worried.  It took me a while to reassure her I was Okay and was going to continue on the road trip.  I also spoke with my buddy Michael DiGregorio in Phoenix and he offered to come rescue me if required and put my bike on his truck.  The downside is that he is 10 hours away.  I was unable to contact my insurance company as the lines were busy and after being on hold for over a half hour, I gave up.  Seems like it was a popular day for accidents.

Tucumcari, New Mexico.  Blood? Yes! Bandages?  No!

My arms were still bleeding and I used up several napkins mopping up the blood.  The poor girl working behind the counter must have been really confused.  I needed bandages, gauze and antibiotic creme, but Tucumcari is a small New Mexico town and  most of the businesses were closed by 5 PM.  Only two small pharmacies in town and they were closed.  There was NOWHERE to get any first aid supplies.  Oddly enough though, I was able to purchase duct tape at an Ace Hardware store.  I taped up the loose bits of plastic, did my best to secure the fairing against further damage and then it was back on the road.

The day was almost gone and what a shitty day indeed.  I was confident that I could go on to Albuquerque.  I knew it would take a few days for my wounds to close up and I would be dealing with aches, pains and bruises along the way.  Big deal, its not the end of the world!  When I take account of the accident, I feel like fortune was on my side, I mean I could have been seriously injured or even killed.  What a lucky person I am to sustain only minor injuries and still continue on my trip.  It was the best outcome for a bad situation.  It also tells me Harley-Davidson’s are tough bikes.  The damned thing skidded and flipped over itself and it still rides!

The road ahead was a wet one, the New Mexico skies were gray and there were intense periods of rain.  It was a understatement to say I was on edge riding in the rain after the accident, but I was determined to make concentration trounce fear.

Josephs’ Bar and Grill, Burritos and Insurance

I stopped for dinner at Joseph’s Bar and Grill in Santa Rosa, NM.  Joseph’s is a wonderful Mexican restaurant that originally opened in 1956.  The famous Fat Man logo was a fixture on the Club Cafe built in 1935 on Route 66.  The restaurant closed in 1991 and fell into a state of decay and disrepair.   Joseph and Christina Campos purchased the building with plans to reopen the Club Cafe. Unfortunately the building could not be restored and it seemed the historic Fat Man logo would be lost forever.  The Campos who also own Joseph’s Bar and Grill, just down the street, decided to bring the Fat Man logo home to their restaurant.  Today, the Fat Man log survives and has become a Santa Rosa and Route 66 icon.

Fat Man logo at Joseph's, Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Fat Man logo at Joseph’s, Santa Rosa, New Mexico

After the day’s events, something as simple as a burrito at this historic restaurant was like manna from heaven.  It was the first time in hours I was able to relax and let the stress leave my body.

While waiting for dinner, I finally spoke with my insurance company and provided them with details of the accident.  They were really helpful and offered assistance to get me back home in case the bike was no longer roadworthy and medical coverage if needed.  After all, that’s why one has insurance.

Onwards to Albuquerque

I’m a stubborn SOB and despite the accident, I was determined to make it to Albuquerque.  There was another 115 miles ahead and the ever present threat of rain.  This damned monsoon season, it can happen anytime during the summer months.  Fortunately, dinner at Joseph’s allowed me time to relax, regroup and refuel, I felt confident I would make it to Albuquerque before 10 PM.

Dark Skies Ahead. Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Dark Skies Ahead. Santa Rosa, New Mexico

I arrived in Albuquerque and eventually found a modest motel on the western fringe of the city.  It was 9:30 PM,  I was exhausted and come hell or high water, I would get myself some Jack Daniels and do my best to put the accident behind me and make a short video of my thoughts on this unfortunate, but lucky, day.

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